My two favorite New York City hotels
Glittering canyons of steel
from the W balcony
A new travel market research study validates two things most of us know anyway: gays and lesbians have a much bigger propensity for travel than our straight counterparts—and New York City remains one of our top three cities to visit. With that in mind, I decided to revisit two of my favorite Manhattan hotels: W, The Court and the Hudson.
Author's note: At the March 2003 fourth annual Gay & Lesbian Travel Expo in Miami, it was interesting to note that a recent survey showed that among the top three destinations for both gay men and lesbians (how often does than happen?) is New York City.
With that in mind, I decided to revisit two of my very favorite hotels for business travelers: W, The Court; and the Hudson. And just because they're heaven for those of us who must use the Big Apple for business purposes, don't think either hotel isn't equally divine for anyone in town for nothing but good ol' urban fun!
When you're lucky enough to travel to New York City regularly for business but not so often that you must rent an apartment to make sense of your bicoastal swings, then finding the right hotel—or hotels—is essential. In addition to the basic needs any business traveler has (a desk, electrical outlets, personal voice mail, data ports, in-room faxes, business centers, dual phone lines, high-speed Internet access, etc.), there's the matter of comfort and image.
Over the 10 years I've been working with LPI Media, I have learned that image is the kind of thing we all want, even insist on—but never cop to. Nevertheless, it must be arranged for, and it's costly. Because I represent the editorial side of the nation's two most valuable and popular gay and lesbian magazines (The Advocate and Out), one thing is clear: When I come to New York City, I notice that people notice…where I'm staying.
With Out's strong 10-year bond with NYC—especially the fashion industry—and The Advocate's 35-year history with gays across America, the magazines may not currently have the circulation figures of Time and Vanity Fair, but for many people in this world, they are just as famous and important. If image is any part of the game (yes, it is), why waste a brain cell pretending otherwise? A much better idea is to find fabulous, gay-friendly, comfortable, image-friendly hotels that truly support the businessperson—at reasonable prices!
No, really, you can. Let me tell you about my two best bets.
The W New York, The Court
If you prefer your hotel stays a little quieter but still exciting and stylish, I can't say enough about my favorite W in all of New York (and there are many), the W New York, The Court. One of the sister hotels (it's right next door to the W New York, The Tuscany) in midtown Manhattan's Murray Hill neighborhood, this particular hotel feels like a retreat. Imbued with the usual W design sensibility and detail, just walking into the small lobby area is a relief. Of course, as with most W (and Ian Schrager) hotels, there are the usual stunning employees holding open heavy glass doors while juggling your bags and packages. Elegant diversity is the norm at the W, and there are several Afro-Hispanic male employees who can actually wake up ancient hetero vibes in me, maybe from another lifetime. And the women, of course, are not only beautiful, they're helpful, smart, and sweet.
The W New York, The Court
Before getting into the rooms, I must tell you about the restaurant downstairs. The Court's Icon is it if good food and good mood is what you crave. New York's toughest restaurant critics fawn over the Icon's chef, Drew Nieporent, and they should: His dishes are amazing. You can eat outside at courtyard tables or be enveloped in sexy velvet red booths of the ultracool interior. You can arrange any kind of breakfast, lunch, or dinner meeting at Icon and feel confident that your guest will be impressed with the food and atmosphere. So if it's one of those times when you're working all day in your room, you can still jump into the shower, throw on some clothes (in-room hair dryers and ironing boards help), and meet any executive in town for an impressive and delicious meal meeting. And you'll be fresh and cheery because you're not exhausted from the horrible rush-hour traffic!
For those who must work: a perfect desk
The rooms: The Court has 198 deluxe guest rooms (this W's small rooms are bigger than other Ws are and much bigger than the Hudson's) and 40 suites (some actually come with terraces). The beds are dreamy, with pillow-top mattresses, feather bed 250-thread-count cotton sheets, and goose down duvets and pillows. The wonderful oversize desks are perfect for your workloads—and I really spread out. There's a big 27-inch TV, which is right next to the desk that has high-speed Internet access—very helpful at the time when LPI Media's E-mail server went down and I couldn't use my laptop. There's also a laptop connection with high-speed Internet. There's a dual-line cordless phone with data port, voice mail, speaker, and conference capabilities. The clock radio has a CD player, and the hotel loans out CDs, DVDs, and videos from its downstairs lobby. Naturally, there's in-room movies on command. The bathrooms are fully equipped with Aveda bath products, cotton bathrobes, hair dryers, and luxurious towels. The rooms have a mini bar, a coffeemaker for the morning rush, and a snack box. If you get hungry for real food, there's 24-hour room service.
In addition to the Icon restaurant downstairs, there is a very happening bar called Wetbar. Said to draw an eclectic crowd, I can testify to that! You simply never know whom you're going to have to plow through on weekend nights to get to the elevators. It's a good thing the rooms are quiet, because the bar really rocks. The space itself is sleek and cool, a little small, with lots of personality.
The W New York, The Court's lobby
Over the years I have made friends with the hotel's general manager, Jeff Darnell. He too loves LPI Media's magazines and makes sure that whatever room I reserve has all the business amenities I need. Once when I brought my niece Sarah along to experience New York City for the first time while I worked, Jeff made sure she had her own television set so that my working hours didn't interrupt her late-night winding-down.
For those who haven't experienced the east side of Manhattan, this W is a great idea. The address is really 39th and Lexington, and Lexington is a great street. There are hundreds of cute little mini markets, sandwich shops, restaurants (well, of course), and clothing stores. The hotel is situated in a quiet area minutes from the Empire State Building (all lit up at night in red, white, and blue since the death of the twin towers once again rendered it the tallest building in NYC). Grand Central Station (where you can go anywhere in America) is a few blocks away, as is the United Nations. Forty-second Street is three blocks away, and you can walk across town to Fifth Avenue and Times Square easily.
For a fun hotel that makes you feel special without costing too much, contact:
W New York, The Court
130 E. 39th St.
New York, NY 10015
Phone: (212) 685-1100
Fax: (212) 889-0287
Web site: www.whotels.com
By now, most image-conscious business travelers, especially in the publishing business, have stumbled on the wonders of Ian Schrager's hotels. While the hotels are all over the world, Schrager and his design partner Philippe Starck launched themselves in NYC. There's the Royalton (44 W. 44th St.), Morgans (237 Madison Ave.), Paramount (235 W. 46th St.), and their biggest hotel to date (1,000 rooms), the…
Looking out over the Hudson River (thus the name), this exquisite cutting-edge hotel on 58th Street (a block from Central Park) is not only beautiful, it's deliciously clever in its elegance.
Just walking into the lobby is a heart-stopping experience. There are ivy-covered walls and flowering vines draped over the pure glass ceiling, all surrounded by customized greenhouses and intricate brickwork. It's absolutely gorgeous. I literally dropped my bags (which was a good idea anyway) and gasped out loud. Apparently, everyone does this. One of many great-looking multilingual Hudson staff members walked up to me and said, "It's pretty lofty, isn't it?" Then he picked up my bags and directed me to the dark African wood check-in counter. As he lifted my briefcase onto a dolly, he noticed The Advocate sticking out of my bag. "Great magazine," he said with a sly smile. He was the first of many Hudson employees to say something like this to me during my two-week stay. It seems both Out and The Advocate are essential reading material at the Hudson.
At the check-in counter there were long lines with excited, energetic bodies sipping Perrier and chattering away in all languages. For people waiting for service, I must say, no one was frazzled or annoyed. Much of it had to do with the international fabulousness of the clientele: mysterious-looking models you can't quite place; Gucci- and Armani-fashioned men holding scripts and cigarettes; punk rockers wearing nose rings and Tag Heuer watches; television stars happy to be out of Los Angeles for a week; and on and on.
Incredibly, if it's spring or summer, you can get a tan at the Hudson. There are multiple outdoor roof gardens with panoramic views of New York City and the Hudson River. There's a rooftop solarium, outdoor dining, gathering areas, hot tubs, and chaise longues. There's a fully equipped gym; there are several outside sunning areas with full snack and bar service. I spent a spring Sunday afternoon sprawled out on an outdoor lounge, sipping green tea and white wine while some old New York friends sipped Grand Marnier and unloaded amazing gossip. It was hard to believe we were really in the middle of New York City.
Off the lobby, there's a wonderful library with antique volumes, special books and periodicals, a cognac and brandy bar, fireplaces, an antique billiards table—all mixed in with computers with high-speed Internet access that you can actually sit down and use.
There's a popular lobby bar that features a glowing glass floor illuminating the specially commissioned ceiling fresco by Francesco Clemente. The room swirls (even without a drink) with all the eclectic furniture from different time periods and styles, bathed in a surreal yellow blaze of lights.
Although personally, I liked only the breakfasts there, the Hudson Cafeteria has a top reputation among New Yorkers as being quite the "in" place for lunch and dinner, boasting several renowned chefs. For me, sitting down at a long heavy wood table each morning with a newspaper and other hotel guests I'd never met, all of us sharing the same bench, was great fun. From granola to bacon and omelettes, with every kind of muffin, toast, and jam in between, it was truly breakfast heaven.
Even taking the elevators is a trip. Are the wavy walls wood? Metal? Who can see anything in the surreal light? When the elevator opens at your floor, you're greeted with the sight of a tall metal table and stools. Whether for eating or working (I saw both), it's a pretty wild sight. Behind the table is a refreshment lounge where you can drop in coins and buy all kinds of goodies. There is also an ice machine and handy ice buckets right there.
There are imported makore wood floors and paneling in all the rooms, custom-designed light boxes, custom-designed bathroom fixtures, Egyptian cotton sheets with 300-thread count, a TV-CD-radio entertainment center featuring satellite music channels—well, you get the picture.
But here's what's missing from the picture: The Hudson is affordable!
Of course, like all Ian Schrager hotels, the rooms are small. Unless you are willing to pay an awful lot (which is to say, pay normal rates for most four- and five-star hotels in New York City), your room won't be roomy. But it will be workable (you'll have a small desk with some business goodies) and peerless in its cool style and gay-friendly (human-friendly, really) room service personnel.
To see if the Hudson can fit you budget and your sense of chic, contact:
365 W. 58th St.
New York City, NY 10019
Phone: (212) 554-6000
Fax: (212) 554-6001
Reservations: (800) 444-4786
Web site: IANSCHRAGERHOTELS.COM